This basketball season promises to be a challenge for the Tahlequah Tigers as they move up to play with the big boys in Class 6A. But Hayden Smith and his coach Marcus Klingsick are ready.
“Marcus has been doing a lot of physical workouts this summer in addition to working on his game and he’s doing all of the right things to become a great player,” said the Tiger coach now starting his third year at the helm. “He averaged about 20 points and eight rebounds a game last season and even though he’s just a junior, he helps as part of our team leadership. We have some seniors but they’re not very vocal and Hayden kind of fills that role for us.”
Smith got his start in basketball in the third grade under the eye of his older brother Hunter who has been a role model for him. He also watches the pros and takes some ideas from their play.
“I like Anthony Davis and his post-up moves and there are others that I’ve tried to borrow from as well,” said Smith who throws the shot and discus for the Tigers in track and plays AAU summer ball.
As a post player Smith has to play facing the basket as well as with his back to the basket.
“I’m probably more comfortable facing up because I know where everyone is. I’ve probably got more experience playing with my back to the basket but I’m not quite as comfortable,” said Smith who is in the National Honor Society and is a member of Link Crew which helps with things like freshman orientation in school.
Among his basketball highlights are his first dunk and his first trip to the state tournament that wasn’t when he was a freshman.
“I wasn’t in the game, but we won on a put-back buzzer beater, and it really gave me a feel for what high school basketball was all about.”
And then the next week Covid hit and there was no state tournament.
Despite the challenge of 6A, Klingsick is optimistic about the season.
“We’ve got three starters back including Hayden and we’re pretty deep with about 15 guys that we can rely on and most of them saw at least some action last year.”